The World Health Organization (WHO) said this week that there is a possibility of an outbreak of a strain of Corona virus in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Both common cold viruses as well as the deadly SARS virus belong to the family of Corona viruses say experts. A new case of the infection has been reported in a Chinese woman travelling to Thailand and this has sparked fears of the infection spreading beyond the boundaries of the nation.
Corona Virus is a strain of virus that causes a of illness in Humans, from the common cold to SARS. Image Credit: Designua / Shutterstock
The woman with the infection has been quarantined in Thailand to prevent spread of the infection say health officials early this week. She landed in Bangkok on the 8th of January 2020. The other passengers on the flight were uninfected and at present the woman is free of the infection and is recovering and ready to return to her native Wuhan in China assured Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
There have been 41 reported cases of the infection with the virus resulting in pneumonia from the Chinese city of Wuhan. According to the lab tests, this is a new form of the corona virus that has not been detected earlier. One of the 41 patients with the infection has succumbed to the complications associated with the infection say reports. This 61-year-old man already had abdominal tumours and a liver disease say officials. This Tuesday, Wuhan health officials have reported that there have been no new cases and no further deaths have been reported. The outbreak had begun in Wuhan in December 2019. The infected persons seemed to have been connected with a market with several species of animals says the WHO but no particular livestock or animal has been linked with the infection yet.
Maria Van Kerkhove, acting head of WHO's emerging diseases unit, said in a statement, “From the information that we have it is possible that there is limited human-to-human transmission, potentially among families, but it is very clear right now that we have no sustained human-to-human transmission.” She spoke at a news briefing at Geneva adding that the WHO was gearing up for a larger outbreak adding, “It is still early days, we don't have a clear clinical picture.”
According to experts some strains or types of the corona virus are capable of causing less serious infections such as common colds. Some of the strains however are capable of causing MERS which can be serious and even fatal. Van Kerkhove explained that at present the United Nations has released guidelines to prevent spread of the infection and its control. She added that there are no present anti-virals that can cure this infection but the available drugs are being “re-purposed” to combat the infection and kill the viruses.
Richard Brow, the agency's representative in Thailand explained that there is the Chinese New year on the 25th of January and hundreds of millions of Chinese visit Thailand around this time of the year. He added that all visitors with fever and cough and those from Wuhan need to be examined by a healthcare worker before they visit Thailand. Since the 9th of January, all travellers from Wuhan have been screened for high body temperature at the Singapore airport say officials. Hong Kong health officials have also started similar health checks of Chinese visitors and have moved on to disinfect the flights and trains from China.
SARS or severe acute respiratory syndrome is a deadly respiratory tract infection that killed around 700 people in 2002 and 2003 during an outbreak that started in China. It had been a pandemic affecting people from 37 countries and 8098 individuals across the globe. SARS has a mortality rate of 9.6 percent. Since May 2004, there have been no reports of SARS infection in China, said the experts.
At present the Chinese experts have shared six genomic sequences from the new sample of the virus with the global agency. This may help identify the new viral strain if it spreads to other nations. The virus has not been named yet. A diagnostic test for the virus has been developed by Christian Drosten, a virologist at Charité University Hospital in Berlin, and other researchers. This test can help detect the pieces of three different genomic sequences in the new type of corona virus to identify it. Drosten explained, “We wanted to use SARS as a basis because every public health laboratory has SARS RNA as a positive control so they can get started immediately.” The researchers are working on animal models to detect antibodies against the virus and ways to combat it.